Tuesday, August 25, 2009

True Friends and Facebook

I really have had a grand time with Facebook. It has been an excellent way for me to reconnect with long lost relatives, schoolmates from long ago, and to make new connections with church friends, office friends, and others and even make new friends.

However, there is a darker side to Facebook. It has exposed my overly sensitive nature.

I can't help it, but this is just me. As I have become older, I have gotten thicker skinned. Still it can sting a bit when someone de-friends you: one day they are there, posting updates, and you're enjoying what they write. The next day: they're gone. They've disappeared not only from your friend list, but you realize they have blocked you from even searching for their profiles to keep you from maybe refriending them sometime in the future. (God forbid!)

One lady did this to me recently. She was a "friend" from another church I had once belonged to. I see her and her husband at the grocery store all the time. I always say hello to them. When I went to that church, I always had a warm and cordial relationship with them. Well, since she isn't here among my friends any more I am left to wonder. Gee, was it something I said? Was it my breath? Does this mean I no longer have to speak to her when I see her in the grocery store?

There are also those "friends" that I have chosen to drop. I generally am long-suffering and try to understand everyone's opinions and thoughts. But occasionally there are those who espouse certain things or say stuff that cross a line that I no longer can condone. It is then I jettison them from my Facebook Family.

Finally there are those "friends" I try to connect with here at Facebook only to have them ignore me! Not once, not twice, but three times. (It took me a while to "get it.") Some of these are school friends from long ago that I would really like to know how they have been. Still others are from that other church again. Church folks can be so fickle. In one case, I took pictures at a graduation ceremony featuring one of them...and so they seem disinterested in connecting with me. Oh well. Message received. LOUD and CLEAR.

So, as I ponder these social networking sites and the state of friendship...I don't like to let FACEBOOK be the gauge of true friendship. It just doesn't seem right. Still though, I wonder about the actions of those people here. But, there are my other friends. Those are the very special friends who aren't here...who don't want to be here....and have no plans to ever be here.

I like Facebook. To me, Facebook is just a fun thing to do to unwind at the end of a busy day and get to know people better. I will continue to have a good time with it and refuse to let a few twerps rain on my parade!

Today I read a great article about this very thing on WSJ.com. I thought I would run here. It just seems appropriate in light of my little epistle.

Read it and ponder:

How Facebook Ruins Friendships
AUGUST 25, 2009, 9:26 A.M. ET
By ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN

Notice to my friends: I love you all dearly.

But I don't give a hoot that you are "having a busy Monday," your child "took 30 minutes to brush his teeth," your dog "just ate an ant trap" or you want to "save the piglets." And I really, really don't care which Addams Family member you most resemble. (I could have told you the answer before you took the quiz on Facebook.)

Here's where you and I went wrong: We took our friendship online. First we began communicating more by email than by phone. Then we switched to "instant messaging" or "texting." We "friended" each other on Facebook, and began communicating by "tweeting" our thoughts—in 140 characters or less—via Twitter. All this online social networking was supposed to make us closer. And in some ways it has.

Thanks to the Internet, many of us have gotten back in touch with friends from high school and college, shared old and new photos, and become better acquainted with some people we might never have grown close to offline. Last year, when a friend of mine was hit by a car and went into a coma, his friends and family were able to easily and instantly share news of his medical progress—and send well wishes and support—thanks to a Web page his mom created for him.

But there's a danger here, too. If we're not careful, our online interactions can hurt our real-life relationships. Like many people, I'm experiencing Facebook Fatigue. I'm tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. ("Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?")

One of the big problems is how we converse. Typing still leaves something to be desired as a communication tool; it lacks the nuances that can be expressed by body language and voice inflection. "Online, people can't see the yawn," says Patricia Wallace, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth and author of "The Psychology of the Internet."

But let's face it, the problem is much greater than which tools we use to communicate. It's what we are actually saying that's really mucking up our relationships. "Oh my God, a college friend just updated her Facebook status to say that her 'teeth are itching for a flossing!'" shrieked a friend of mine recently. "That's gross. I don't want to hear about what's going on inside her mouth." That prompted me to check my own Facebook page, only to find that three of my pals—none of whom know each other—had the exact same status update: "Zzzzzzz." They promptly put me to "zzzzzzz."
This brings us to our first dilemma: Amidst all this heightened chatter, we're not saying much that's interesting, folks. Rather, we're breaking a cardinal rule of companionship: Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Friends.

"It's called narcissism," says Matt Brown, a 36-year-old business-development manager for a chain of hair salons and spas in Seattle. He's particularly annoyed by a friend who works at an auto dealership who tweets every time he sells a car, a married couple who bicker on Facebook's public walls and another couple so "mooshy-gooshy" they sit in the same room of their house posting love messages to each other for all to see. "Why is your life so frickin' important and entertaining that we need to
know?" Mr. Brown says.

Gwen Jewett, for her part, is sick of meal status updates. "A few of my friends like to post several times a day about what they are eating: 'I just ate a Frito pie.' 'I am enjoying a double hot-fudge sundae at home tonight.' 'Just ate a whole pizza with sausage, peppers and double cheese,'" says the 49-year-old career coach in suburban Dallas. "My question is this: If we didn't call each other on the phone every time we ate before, why do we need the alerts now?"

For others, boredom isn't the biggest challenge of managing Internet relationships. Consider, for example, how people you know often seem different online—not just gussied up or more polished, but bolder, too, displaying sides of their personalities you have never seen before.

Alex Gilbert, 27, who works for a nonprofit in Houston that teaches creative writing to kids, is still puzzling over an old friend—"a particularly masculine-type dude"—who plays in a heavy-metal band and heads a motorcycle club yet posts videos on Facebook of "uber cute" kittens. "It's not fodder for your real-life conversation," Mr. Gilbert says. "We're not going to get together and talk about how cute kittens are."

James Hills discovered that a colleague is gay via Facebook, but he says that didn't bother him. It was after his friend joined groups that cater to hairy men, such as "Furball NYC," that he was left feeling awkward. "This is something I just didn't need to know," says Mr. Hills, who is 32 and president of a marketing firm in Elgin, Ill. "I'd feel the same way if it was a straight friend joining a leather-and-lace group."

And then there's jealousy. In all that information you're posting about your life—your vacation, your kids, your promotions at work, even that margarita you just drank—someone is bound to find something to envy. When it comes to relationships, such online revelations can make breaking up even harder to do.

"Facebook prolongs the period it takes to get over someone, because you have an open window into their life, whether youwant to or not," says Yianni Garcia of New York, a consultant who helps companies use social media. "You see their updates, their pictures and their relationship status."

Mr. Garcia, 24, felt the sting of Facebook jealousy personally last spring, after he split up with his boyfriend. For a few weeks, he continued to visit his ex's Facebook page, scrutinizing his new friends. Then one day he discovered that his former boyfriend had blocked him from accessing his profile.
Why? "He said he'd only 'unfriended' me to protect himself, because if someone flirted with me he would feel jealous," Mr.Garcia says.

Facebook can also be a mecca for passive-aggressive behavior. "Suddenly, things you wouldn't say out loud in conversation are OK to say because you're sitting behind a computer screen," says Kimberly Kaye, 26, an arts writer in New York. She was surprised when friends who had politely discussed health-care reform over dinner later grew much more antagonistic when they continued the argument online.

Just ask Heather White. She says her college roommate at the University of Georgia started an argument over text about who should clean their apartment. Ms. White, 22, who was home visiting her parents at the time, asked her friend to call her so they could discuss the issue. Her friend never did.

A few days later, Ms. White, who graduated in May, updated her Facebook status, commenting that her favorite country duo, Brooks & Dunn, just broke up. Almost immediately, her roommate responded, writing publicly on her wall: "Just like us."

The two women have barely spoken since then.

So what's the solution, short of "unfriending" or "unfollowing" everyone who annoys you? You can use the "hide" button on Facebook to stop getting your friends' status updates—they'll never know—or use TwitterSnooze, a Web site that allows you to temporarily suspend tweets from someone you follow. (Warning: They'll get a notice from Twitter when you begin reading their tweets again.)

But these are really just Band-Aid tactics. To improve our interactions, we need to change our conduct, not just cover it up.

First, watch your own behavior, asking yourself before you post anything: "Is this something I'd want someone to tell me?"

"Run it by that focus group of one," says Johns Hopkins's Dr. Wallace. And positively reward others, responding only when they write something interesting, ignoring them when they are boring or
obnoxious. (Commenting negatively will only start a very public war.)

If all that fails, you can always start a new group: "Get Facebook to Create an Eye-Roll Button Now!"

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Pairing Off

I am still on my soapbox about finding a mate. Sometimes I think this whole thing is going to wind up getting the best of me. I don't want to be alone in the remaining time of my life. I want to have a happy and fulfilled life -- full of love....laughter....happiness...joy. You know, all that good stuff.

This week has really been a downer in terms of my feelings of loneliness....profound sadness....and downright gloom over all this. It sounds pretty silly to all of you out there in the ether of the Internet: this 50 something year old man....who has so much to be thankful for....is sitting and pining away for a relationship. AARGH!

One of the things that tend to make me smile in a warped way...is that one of the most romantic days of the year is Valentine's Day. Many is the day that I have gone into restaurants on that wonderful occasion and seen all the couples paired off. All the folks are of different sizes, shapes, ages, etc. In some cases, I've even shook my head to say, "Wow, how did they ever hook up?" I mean, even some of the ugliest men on the earth has a babe on their arm. Or a most unattractive woman will have a hunk on hers!

Day before yesterday, I was having lunch in our cafeteria. At the same time, where I work is offering free screenings for TAMIFLU. Everyone where I work and those people that live with them can get a free prescription for this drug and will receive the drug in case of an outbreak of an epidemic.

Some of my friends brought their wives...husbands....kids.... One man in particular, who I have always believed to be gay, brought his partner in. Now, I have to tell you, my friend is very attractive. He is well built, relatively young, many attractive qualities -- not to mention an excellent job.

Then I looked at his partner.

He is not what I would have expected.

He was older and the advancing years had not been too kind.

He had lots of facial wrinkles....and just did not give himself to the same robustness that my friend has.

So, as I sat there watching them together.....I couldn't help but wonder, why can't I find someone. What's wrong with me?

I shook my head...got up and returned to my office.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Pondrances on an OLD Theme

Here I go again...

Please don't lecture me....and please don't accuse me of "whining"... I'm just processing thoughts as I write this. So bear with me...please?

If this isn't your "cup of tea," then by all means, navigate from this blog and go some place else for today.

I am exceedingly Lonely. Note the capital L.

Yup.

We're back at that theme again.

And, I'm not alone in this. I have tons of gay friends who are in my age range, who feel the same way. They find that the further they slip over the age of 50, in the gay world, it's practically curtains. You might as well find the pretty box and close the lid and get buried.

It's over.

Finito!

I have joined a number of dating sites. Most people just pass on by my profile. It gets traffic...but I never hear from anyone. When I look at the guys who have viewed my profile...some are really eye catching...so I complete an "Ice breaker"...only to have them appear like a neanderthal in their responses with one word grunts.

Some of the guys in my age are only interested in people 27 and a half to 32.4. Other guys are only interested in guys up to 45. Still others are only interested in those guys who are "built"...clearly I don't fall into that category. Or they want someone who is athletically inclined....clearly not me.

I have met some interesting and eligible men through mutual friends...but I freeze. I am so timid and shy. I know I must seem like a dork.

Other men that I have been out with seem way too picky for my tastes. They get all upset because a child cries in a public restaurant...blah...blah.

Then there are those who do express an interest. Like the guy who began stalking me....and telling me how he wanted to be so close to me that he wanted me to go everywhere with him. He wanted to be able to inhale my morning breath and other odors. The thing that took the cake was when he said that he wanted me to share erotic bowel movements with me...IN THE SHOWER -- "our logs of love mingling together."

I kid you not!

Then there are the men who are amputees....the ones in wheelchairs.....the ones who have been diagnosed as bi-polar, but are good about staying on their meds....the ones who weigh 500 pounds.....the ones who want to be referred to as Amanda.....

It's tough being gay.

It's tough being an average, run-of-the-mill, 50something, divorced, lonely, white, gay man.

At times, I want to burn my gay membership card.....ditch the decoder ring....forget the secret handshake....and go live on a mountaintop.

But here I am.

Still hoping to meet that one-in-a-million man. The one that is just a normal man. One with normal needs. Normal dreams. Normal wants.

Someone to grow old with. Someone to share my life with -- the ups and the downs -- the losses and the gains -- the good and the bad...

But honestly, I don't know if this is going to happen.

About 3 weeks ago I met a wonderful man at a party I was invited to. He and I have absolutely nothing in common. He's blue collar....I'm a government executive. He likes drinking with his buddies....I don't drink.

He doesn't go to church....I do and am quite active.

He also identifies as straight...I'm gay. And he keeps telling everyone how straight he is....including me. "I don't want you to get your hopes up," he keeps saying. Those of us who know him thinks he is dealing with this issue and is scared by it.

I saw him at a cookout the following week...and he followed me like a puppy dog. Wherever I sat...he moved to be near me. When I went to stand by the grill at the other end of the deck, he found a reason to come stand by me. When everyone else went inside to see something that the host had recently gotten, I decided to stay out on the deck. Guess who stayed with me? He did.

At the end of the evening. He gave me a very long bear hug.

The host told me that she had never seen him act that way with anyone. She asked me what we had in common..and I said..."Nothing...absolutely nothing." I went on. "But you know...opposites attract and he seems to be the type of person who has never been loved and cared for unconditionally. I could do that for him!"

And I could.

But, I'm not going to pursue this. It could be a trainwreck in disguise.

So I watch...and wait.

Surely there is a man....a good man.....looking for me.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

A Good Evening

The last few days have been uneventful. I've gotten the opportunity to relax and spend some quiet time by myself. My daughter is visiting her mother down in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Church was good. We spent a lot of time Sunday afternoon and this evening running through practice of an original program put together by one of my fellow church members in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots -- the riots that launched the gay rights movement.

I was able to also prepare my slideshow contributions for this production. I've been asked to do some readings.

We present this program on Saturday night. It appears to be a sellout

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Some VERY Good News

Heard from my friend Lily today. Her scan yesterday revealed that the cancer has not spread....and so once the organ is removed, she will be in tip-top shape and should be able to come back to work within the next 2-3 weeks. YIPPEE. This is a tremendous answer to our prayers. Thank you friends for remembering her.

********

So far this weekend has been pretty good. I have spent some quality time with my daughter. I've spoken to my other daughter from Nashville who has made the journey to West Virginia to visit her grandparents. They were so pleasantly pleased that she joined them. I am glad she did this.

My son, on the other hand is in limbo. He had announced great plans to marry a woman from Georgia this week...but it looks like that this is off for now. I'm am very relieved about this. He needs to just chill and get to know her a little better before he goes off and marries her.

WHEW.

Other than this, I have had a basically uneventful week. It has been very busy. But thank goodness for weekends.

In other news, I have been dating.

Yup dating.

I am not sure where it will all lead....but at least I am putting myself out there to meet guys....and spend time with them. Please note that this does not mean that I have been getting them between the sheets.....as a matter of fact, I have not done that at all with any of my prospective beaus.

But I must say, it has been good to be in the presence of some very charming men.

I am taking my time....and getting to know them. Who knows? One of them could turn out to be my husband!

Stay tuned....and keep that happy energy flowing in my direction!

More later.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

My Friend, Lily

One of my greatest friends in the whole wide world is a lady that works with me,that I will refer to as "Lily."

Lily has only worked in my office about a year and a half, but we became fast friends. We have lots of the same interests. She has young kids. I've been to her house several times...and the woman can cook like you would not believe.

She is a wonderful writer.....and avid photographer.....and just an overall sweet disposition.

This past Tuesday she was scheduled to return from her vacation. However, over the past few months she has complained with back problems. She had trouble standing and sitting. We found out Tuesday morning that she had been diagnosed with shingles.

Later on in the day, she found out that it was really worse, much worse. She has a rare form of cancer that is not treatable with chemo and radiation. She had a PT scan today...and from what I have heard...it wasn't a bad report. So they will remove the tumor and a major organ...and hopefully she will be cancer free.

Her surgery is set for this Monday. Please remember her in your thoughts and prayers.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Disturbance

Sometimes I still feel like I'm stuck on that god-forbidden roller coaster known as my life.

Of late I have been feeling quite good about myself. I am slowing down...and trying to catch my breath... I try so hard to realize that I'm in charge now...and that I can do this.

But then there are times that I feel like a lost orphan. Where do I turn? What do I do?

Then, there are days like today where I just don't know anymore.

For the past little while I have felt like my old self. I'm content. I'm happy. I'm thankful for all the blessing God has given me.

But I experienced a disturbance of that tranquility this week....and it has upset my entire week.

I should know better.

My son announced earlier this week that he is getting married next week!

He's 23 and she's 21.

He's only known her for 6 months.

Here's how it's gonna work:

They're gonna get married at the courthouse in Georgia sometime next week. His wife-to-be says that family is not necessary...so they aren't telling any more details. They don't want her parent to know because it would stop some financial support they are giving to her.

She will continue to live in Georgia.

She is not changing her last name.

He will continue to live in Texas.

He will send her the extra money he gets from the military due to his change of marital status.

I asked him a day or so ago as to why he was rushing things so. I also suggested that she tell her parents sooner than later because if they are still listing his soon-to-be wife on their tax forms, they need to know.

That's when the yelling began.

It was awful.

He totally twisted my meaning.....and accused me of saying that he was impulsive and not knowing what he was doing.

The phone call ended very nastily. Within the hour I had an email from HER. This is the first communication I have had from HER.

I was not impressed.

She sounds like a gold digger....and the really troubling aspect of this is how she said that the reason she wanted only a few people to know about her and my son was that if it didn't work out, they could all have a big laugh and treat this all as one BIG joke!

Do you suppose she and Brittany Spears are cut from the same cloth?

I digress.

Once I read her email a number of times, I was tempted to toast her cookies. I could have flamed her and left her as toast.

But I decided that I needed to proceed with caution and to take the high road. I gave her a pass -- this time.

Still I am concerned about my little boy. I think she is out to take advantage of him.

And he doesn't even know it.

So, I am keeping my mouth shut and watching all this unfold.

It would be so nice to have someone hold me right now.

But that's another story for another day.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Milestone Has Been Reached


I am so amazed at the fact that I have reached a new level in my life. I seem to be experiencing peace. A very deep and settled peace...one as I have never known in all my 51 years.

Oh, there are brief interludes of bitterness.... Bittnerness about how my life has turned out. All my broken promises and dreams that have since dissolved into the ether.

Sometimes I'd love to turn around and kick myself in the behind for believing the bill of goods sent to me by society and all the homophobic churches out there in Christendom. I actually thought I could change. I believed that all I needed to have in my life was a beautiful loving woman...one who would stand beside me...hold my hand....accept me for my shortcomings and to help me change.

She was a minister. Everyone had a different view point of her. And I? Well, I thought that she would or could be the love of my life.

So, I married her. I accepted her for who she was. I tried telling myself that I could change. But, it never happened.

Everything I told her in confidence was later broadcast from the housetops. I wasted so much time with HER. I supported her....but was told I didn't. I worked myself silly so that she and the kids could be provided for....and in the end...she didn't care. She painted me with a broad brush that made me question my motives and my actions.

Oh my.

It's been a long time.

But now, I feel better.

After her blowup with me in February and I pronounced the situation "over" and that "I am done," I was reminded of that final scene in the movie TWISTER. You know where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are tied to outdoor pipes.....the building they are hiding in from the big bad F-5 tornado is demolished around them. They are almost sucked up into the tornado and actually look up into the funnel. The wind is howling....debris is flying everywhere.

They are in serious danger.

But as they look up...they see the light of sun. Suddenly the storm stops......and the funnel dissolves....debris falls from the sky for a few moments...and then the sun begins to shine. The family who were stuck in the storm shelter emerge safe and sound.

The house still stands...but it is battered...and windblown.

Life goes on...it rebuilds...

That's how I feel sometimes. I went through the eye of the storm....and suddenly the storm has dissipated. I'm left standing.

It's calm.

Birds are singing.

And I am feeling whole again.

This weekend that happened to me. Without warning. The clouds parted and I am reminded that I am left standing...in one piece.

I am sooooooooooooo thankful.

But I have heard from a few friends who are where I was....and it is just as hellish for them as it is for me. In my little way...I want to be able to help them.

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